It has been described as Andy Reid's menu.

The Eagles' coach has called it that himself.

But Reid's game-day play card - as familiar as his all-black wardrobe - doesn't read like the menu from a 24-hour diner.

It has something Reid craves even more than food: plays for his offense.

And lots of them.

There are base plays, short-yardage plays, red-zone plays, two-minute drill plays, any kind of play for any kind of situation. And for this season (only?), there are Michael Vick plays.

"Really, this is just a third of what you can do, if that," Reid said. "The plays that you have are extensive, so each play can have one, two, three, four different formations that you can run it from."

Each category of plays has its own subhead, and the plays are diagrammed on the two-sided card like, well, a menu. On the front, in the top left corner, are base-package plays, ones the team uses frequently. Under the base head, there is the choice of run or pass and for each of the first three downs.

To the right of the base plays are goal-line plays, and next over are plays used inside the 20-yard line. Below that are short-yardage plays, subdivided into scenarios. On the bottom third of the front are third-down plays and plays designed for a nickel defense. Vick's plays are tucked way at the bottom, but they do not mention the quarterback by name.

On the back of the card are plays Reid might want to use with less than two minutes and four minutes to go in the half or the game. And there are rules - rules for coaching challenges and coaching rules for when to go for a two-point conversion. One grouping may be highlighted by a color, another may or may not be highlighted by a different color.

It's a cheat sheet laid out so the reader can digest it easily.

"All the assistants have a copy of it," Reid said. "It's kind of your menu right there, things that you go off of in certain situations. Hopefully, you got every situation covered - to a point."

Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who does most of the play calling, carry the motherboards. Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott and his assistants have their own cards, too, for the defensive schemes. The original card for the offense is legal size, but Reid and Mornhinweg add margins so they can continue to add plays right up until the final whistle. All told the card is about 12 by 16 inches.

The original is typed, copied, and laminated by Reid's executive assistant, Carol Wilson. The print is tiny because there is a lot to cram onto each side. "That's why I need glasses," Reid said.

Still, the card is not big enough for Reid. He needs another that has the various personnel groups and formations for each play. He and Mornhinweg have memorized the second card, so they don't hold it during the game. Reid's on-field assistant, Brett Veach, carries his. Mornhinweg tucks his into his pants.

Reid said he got the idea of the card from Bill Walsh, the legendary former coach of the San Francisco 49ers, who visit Lincoln Financial Field today. Walsh was not the only coach back then to carry a card on game day. He just popularized it. Still, Walsh protege and Reid mentor Mike Holmgren is widely credited with supersizing the card. Now every coach has one, although much bigger as are most things in the NFL. The days of drawing it up in the dirt are long gone.

"Everybody has added their own signature to it," Mornhinweg said. "I can't think of one coach that doesn't use one. The game is so situational now, and you spend so much time, effort, and energy into a situational game plan. You need to compartmentalize what you've spent all week practicing."

On Monday, after watching the film of the previous day's game, the team begins work on the next game plan. Tuesday, when the players are off, is when the coaches compile the bulk of the plays for the next opponent. Quarterback Donovan McNabb receives a fax of the plays on Tuesday so he can study them before practice on Wednesday.

McNabb has never worn a wristband with the plays listed. He doesn't like it, Reid said, because he sweats a lot, and the band becomes too heavy for him. But the team recently asked its backups to wear one. So when Kevin Kolb and Vick arrive on Wednesday, the wristband is already in their lockers with the early version of the game plan.

"We get a new one every day because the game plan changes every day," Kolb said. "They're always adding and subtracting."

The Eagles plan in sequence.

"By Wednesday morning, the players in their books will have the base passes, the base runs," Mornhinweg said. "And then Thursday they'll have short yardage, goal line, and nickel. And then Friday they'll have red zone, backed up, and the two-minute is always in there."

By Saturday, the final printed card has most of the plays practiced throughout the week. According to Reid, it's approximately a third to a half of the playbook, around 100 plays. There are, on average, 65 offensive plays for each team in a game.

Reid said the Eagles rarely stray from the play card.

"There are times that you go off the first 15 [plays] and go to something else within the game plan," he said. "But you don't want to dial up too many things that you haven't practiced."

The offensive and defensive coaches relay the plays with their radio microphone to the headset inside the helmet of one defensive player or the quarterback helmet. Sending in plays used to be much more difficult.

"We were signaling in all the plays," Reid said. "That was tough. Or we were sending them in with the player. That was even worse."

Most coaches cover their mouths with the card as they call the plays. Some may call this paranoia, but it's fairly easy to distinguish between a run and a pass play. Run plays aren't as wordy as pass plays. An opposing coach with binoculars up in the box could easily read lips and make out the difference between the two.

The Eagles transmit their plays by number: "Play No. 58," etc. McNabb, knowing what each number is, calls out the play – "Two drop-flanker-drive, blue eight, five short," for example – in the huddle. (It's a pass.) In the case of Kolb and Vick, the number and play on the wrist band correspond to what is on the card.

"It's actually easier to get the play through the headset," Vick said. "While he's giving it to you can almost visualize what he's telling you. You spit it out before he even gets it out."

Reid doesn't want his plays literally spit out. He prefers that they go down easy. Of course, he's aware of the sarcastic analogies made between his play card and a menu.

"I'm not thin-skinned," Reid joked. "I'm thick skinned - literally."

Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or jmclane@phillynews.com.